Madrid to close all schools for two weeks after coronavirus spike

All schools, including kindergartens and universities, in the Madrid region are to close from Wednesday for two weeks following a sharp spike in coronavirus cases in and around the Spanish capital, Health Minister Salvador Illa has announced.

He also announced more than 200 new cases and three deaths across Spain since the previous tally given only a few hours earlier.

Spain has confirmed 1,204 cases of coronavirus, with 28 deaths and 74 people in intensive care, Illa said. Those cases, he said, "imply a change for the worse of the disease in Spain".

National broadcaster TVE said the measure in Madrid would affect some 1.2 million students.

Madrid has registered more than half of the cases of the new virus in the country, with much of the contagion linked to nursing homes and health workers.

Earlier on Monday, authorities in northern Spain’s Basque Country also announced the closure of educational centers around the regional capital, Vitoria, where the second-worst cluster has been identified.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

Deserted streets in the old village of Haro, northern Spain. Credit: AP

The drastic measure comes after Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte promised “massive shock therapy” to overcome the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in his country, after his government put one quarter of the country's population on lockdown in a bid to combat the crisis.

After mass testing uncovered more than 7,300 infections, Italy's outbreak has surged to nearly equal South Korea's, which had been tapering off, and trailing China, where Covid-19 is in retreat.

Italy's death toll now stands at 366, the second highest after China.